The Last Gasps of Fall Colors

The Schaumburg Sculpture Park, a game to play with leaves, and a podcast to try

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No matter what your hopes were for Election Day (and the uncertain days that are following it), there’s one issue we can all agree on: This has been an excellent fall for taking long walks in forest preserves and enjoying fall colors. Somebody Up There realized that if they were going to give us an endless pandemic, they might as well give us some good weekend weather to go along with it. I swear this newsletter wasn’t intended to be just about where to find epic autumn leaves, but here we are. So get out there and enjoy the last hurrah before we’re locked down for the winter.

Where To Go

Schaumburg Sculpture Park | Schaumburg

When I think of Schaumburg, I immediately think of Woodfield Mall, because that was really the only reason I ever went to Schaumburg for the majority of my life. Well, I’m not getting out to the mall these days (is anyone?), but I seem to be heading to Schaumburg more frequently than ever. Why? Because of this fantastic park.

The Schaumburg Sculpture Park—also known as the Chicago Athenaeum International Sculpture Park—offers visitors a bit of a choose your own adventure experience upon arrival. Will you take the path in front of you, which leads you through a maze of prairie grass? Will you take the main paved path that offers a look at 13 wacky sculptures with names like What Now, Heavy Dog Kiss, Tongues and Heroic Encounter? Or will you take the road less traveled that leads you into a wooded area that winds along a small stream?

The number of choices make this park particularly worth the trip if you have smaller children with shorter attention spans, as you can climb on the sculptures, walk across a bridge, throw rocks in water and even stop for a picnic—all in one place!

Also—I’m really glad that I decided to write this newsletter, because I just found out that there are actually three more sculptures we haven’t seen yet, and one of them is apparently the signature sculpture of the park! Now we have to go back again! Check out the map:

Sculpture #14—Awaking Muse—is located off of the main trail, past the parking lot, through a courtyard where I would eventually love to attend an outdoor concert, and around a beautiful lagoon with a fountain. I won’t spoil the sculptures for you, but if you want to ruin it for yourself, click here for the interactive map with photos.

Suffice to say, my kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed this park, and we’ve made three trips in the last couple of months. When we went last weekend, the fall colors were still largely in bloom and there were plenty of leaves to crunch on the ground as well. It’s also been blessedly empty each time, so we really feel like we have the park largely to ourselves. See, I’m giving you all my secret places!

Tips from Dad

  • Bring a stroller. The main path through the sculpture walk is paved, as is the path through the prairie grass. You’ll probably have to ditch the stroller for the wooded path, but it’s worth taking that short detour.

  • Bring a bike. While there might not be enough path here to satisfy a grown-up, serious cyclist, it is a lovely trail and would be fun to leisurely bike along. For our 2 and 4-year-old, however, the amount of path was perfect for their tricycle and training wheels, respectively. It made the jaunt go a little faster than walking, which gave us time to explore all that the park had to offer.

  • Bring a picnic. We did not do this, but the area around the lagoon is absolutely perfect for a picnic lunch—or even a hot chocolate stop—on a decently nice fall day. There are picnic tables, large stone slabs at seat height or even large swaths of lawn that you could use if you want to go the traditional picnic blanket route.

  • Enjoy the sculptures. There are no signs prohibiting your kids (or you…) from climbing all over the out-of-this-world statues, and the unique shapes lend themselves to entertaining children (and adults). Have at it!

What To Play

Name That Leaf with Google Lens

Monopoly or no monopoly, I am a proud devotee of all things Google, and that includes my Google Pixel phone and my use of a Google Fi cellular plan (check it out and use my code when you decide to switch so we both get $20!).

One of the features of the phone that I’ve just started using (which is also available for iPhone) is Google Lens. Essentially, it’s an app that turns your phone’s camera into an instant Google search. You take a photo of something, and it searches the Web to help you find out what it is. It could be a photo, artwork, a flower, food…whatever you submit.

As my family took our nearly nightly stroll through the neighborhood recently, my daughter picked up a leaf and asked me what kind of tree it was from. My father-in-law owns a tree farm and could probably have answered immediately, but I was born in the suburbs, so all I know about leaves is that poison ivy has leaves of three and you should leave them be.

Rather than Googling “what tree has leaves that are sharp on the edges and turns red in the fall?”, I realized that I could just snap a photo and consult the all-knowing Google Lens. It worked perfectly, and the rest of our walk home was a lot more interesting and informative. After we discovered certain leaf types, I could pick them up again later and quiz her on which kind it was. We even found out exactly what kinds of trees and plants are in our own backyard! Does this count as homeschooling?!

What To Hear

Quarantined! by Old Crow Medicine Show

I love music and podcasts, so I’m going to start including audio recommendations here from time to time. This week, I recommend that you check out this catchy/timely/comedic little ditty from Old Crow Medicine Show. It’s not going to be your new favorite song, but it might give you a laugh during a stressful week and should get your toe tapping, as Old Crow Medicine Show is wont to do.

#33 Bobby by Heavyweight

Whenever someone asks me for a podcast recommendation, my go-to suggestion is always Heavyweight. The sensitive and hilarious host Jonathan Goldstein helps people revisit moments/people/experiences that are unresolved from their past and try to resolve them, change them or at least better understand them. The show has been on for four seasons and this is the first episode of the new fifth season that is now being released. The topic of this episode—about the creation of what is possibly the worst McDonald’s commercial of all time—is lighter-than-usual fare for this podcast, but serves as a good entrée into the Heavyweight universe.

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